Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christmas at Walt Disney World

Our blog today is written by Stephanie Z, one of our personal vacation planners at DreamFinder Travel.   Stephanie wanted to share ideas for Christmas at Walt Disney World.  If you would like to get a vacation quote from Stephanie, you can click here.
Christmas at Walt Disney World

When people think of Christmas at Disney World most people automatically think about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  But there are plenty of other things to do that are included in your regular park admission.  It is a family tradition for us to spend 4-5 days at Walt Disney World every December.  Since we live in Florida we usually go to the parks in early December (since it is usually less crowded) but you will find that anytime is magical.  Each park, as well as Downtown Disney, is beautifully decorated as one would expect.   Downtown Disney has Santa Claus, great decorations and live entertainment every day and night that include choirs singing Christmas carols or dance ensembles celebrating the holiday season.

What most people don’t realize is that every hotel is decorated also.  The Deluxe hotels have phenomenal decorations including gingerbread houses and moving displays.  The Grand Floridian Resort's Gingerbread house is life-sized, and they also sell smaller replicas that you can take home to enjoy.  One of our favorite places to visit is the Boardwalk Area.  Here you can see the decorations at The Boardwalk Resort, The Beach Club, and The Yacht Club.  Even if you aren’t going into Epcot that night you can see the fireworks from the Boardwalk as well.   

 At Disney's Animal Kingdom there is the Jingle Jungle Parade which has the Fab 5 with some Christmas decorations but with an animal twist.  In my opinion, this is the most underwhelming event at Christmastime.

The kids’ favorite is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights Show at Hollywood Studios.  Once the sun sets, millions of lights illuminate the night sky and it is amazing.   Every 10 minutes a musical show begins and “snow” falls on the streets.  We have enjoyed this scene many times and each time we stand there in awe of how beautiful it is.  (This year you can even "glow with the show" by purchasing special light up Mickey Ear hats.)

The Christmas decorations in the Magic Kingdoms are incredible.  Cinderella’s Castle has millions of shimmering lights.  The storefront windows along Main Street are decorated with Christmas scenes filled with our favorite characters.  Every year we love to stand at the beginning of Main Street and take in the view – that is, once the kids are asleep in the stroller.  If you aren’t able to make it to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party I would suggest you find a good spot to view the fireworks.  Disney does a special fireworks show just for the Party and it lights up the sky.  The fireworks can be viewed from the Contemporary’s balcony specifically for viewing the fireworks (4th Floor, Concourse.)  Another great viewing spot is from the Polynesian out on the point.

Our absolute favorite day during our holiday visit, is our visit to Epcot.  I have two very young kids and they love it as much as we do.   We love to listen to the storytellers explain how Christmas is celebrated in the different countries around the world showcase.  Each country brings its holiday legends to life with sights and stories.  In France, Pere Noel tells how the children leave shoes out for him to fill with goodies.   In Germany you learn how the Christmas tree came to be, and the start of the Nutcracker.  La Befana comes to life to tell you how she brings gifts to the children of Italy.  My favorite is Norway’s Julenissen, the gnome who makes everyone laugh with holiday pranks.  The pinnacle at Epcot is the Candlelight Processional where celebrity narrators tell the Christmas Story while a 50 piece orchestra and large choir brings the story to life, all while the stage is illuminated with candles being held by the singers.  The 45 minute show is offered 3 times a day at 5pm, 6:45, and 8:15.  You can purchase a dinner or lunch package through Disney to get reserved seating or you can wait in line for the limited first come first serve seating.  If you can’t splurge for the meal package then I recommend standing just outside the ropes and you can get a great view and listen to everything without a problem.  This is a VERY popular show, and sometimes there are people who have waited all day to get a seat for the show, but other than the comfort of sitting down for the show, nothing else is different if you are standing behind the ropes.  We have been lucky enough to hear Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Neil Armstrong, and James Denton narrate the story over the past few years.   
Here is the list of the coming celebrity narrators for this coming season

•Gary Sinise
 November 29 to December 1, 2013

•Neil Patrick Harris
 December 2 to December 3, 2013

•Ashley Judd - NEW this year! 
 December 4 to December 5

•Whoopi Goldberg 
 December 6 to December 7, 2013

•Sigourney Weaver - NEW this year!
 December 8 to December 10, 2013

•Dennis Haysbert - NEW this year!
 December 11 to December 13, 2013

•James Denton 
 December 14 to December 16, 2013

•Edward James Olmos
 December 17 to December 19, 2013

•Trace Adkins
 December 20 to December 22, 2013

•Steven Curtis Chapman 
 December 23 to December 25, 2013

•Blair Underwood 
 December 26 to December 28, 2013

•Amy Grant 
 December 29 to December 30, 2013

The Holidays at Disney is my favorite time of year.  Even the Grinch would walk away from here with that Christmas Spirit shining out of him.  The good news is if you have a limited budget for your Christmas trip you don’t need more than your park tickets to have a magical vacation.

If you would like to get a pricing quote from Stephanie for a trip to Walt Disney World,  or any other destination, please click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

The 20th Annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is set for March 6 - May 19, 2013.
Always a popular event, this year it will debut Illuminated Blooms and "Garden Marketplace" dining!

Throughout the event, guests will discover festival surprises around every corner, including new topiary creations, the butterfly bounty, children's play areas, HGTV celebrity designers, daily hands-on gardening seminars and the Festival Center which is packed with ideas, tips, and Festival merchandise.  In addition during the weekends of the event (Friday - Sunday), the Flower Power Concert Series will take place, featuring bands from the 1960's and 1970's, and HGTV design celebrities will host Festival Center seminars. 

New this year to the Festival will be the Land of Oz, a circus-like play area based on the upcoming Disney film, "Oz, the Great and Powerful."  The interactive children's play zone will feature play systems adorned with giant flowers and designed to stretch kids' imaginations and muscles.  Midway-Style games, red and white circus tememed tents and the "oz Movie Garden" of intriguing plants will capture the spirit of the upcoming film as well.  Also, there will be photo opportunities and a "crashed" hot-air balloon.  (This will be located in the Imagination Walkway.)

I am very excited about the new "culinary creations and libations" addition to the event.  This reminds me of the Food & Wine Festival!)

The Garden Marketplace will include items such as Smokehouse Barbecue and Shrimp with Grits, and Zellwood Corn to sweet "frushi" made with fresh fruits and coconut rice.  Marketplaces will include "Florida Fresh" at the World Showcase Promenade, "Smokehouse Barbecue and Brew" at the American Adventure Courtyard, "Primavera Kitchen" at the Italy showcase, "Hanami" at the Japan Showcase, and 8 others around the World Showcase promenade.

 How does Hot Sun Tomato Wine from Florida Orange Groves Winery or a Dole Whip with Spiced Rum sound?  These will be available, as will non-alcoholic drinks like Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade and Wild Berry Slush.  
Beverage specialists will feature brews and beverages at food marketplaces and at "Fruits by the Glass" and "Pineapple Promenade" around the World Showcase promenade. 

Both Future World and the World Showcase will twinkle and glow with the Illuminated Gardens each festival evening.

Topiaries will include a Fab Five character celebration cookout scene, which will have floral versions of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald (with a Daisy Duck cameo!)  Donald & Daisy will be playing badmitton, Mickey will be at the grill (with Pluto swiping hotdogs!), and Millie will be relaxing on a colorful blanket of blossoms.  This will be the entry topiary located at Epcot's Front Entrance.
Additional topiaries will include:
  • Monsters University (featuring Mike & Sully)--Future World Walkway
  • Phineas & Ferb--behind Spaceship Earth
  • Radiator Springs play zone (featuring Lightning McQueen and Mater)--Test Track Walkway
  • TinkerBell's Butterfly House (featuring 8 topiaries from Pixie Hollow, including TinkerBell, Fawn, Vidia and Terrence)--Imagination Walkway

 The Flower Power Concert Series will be offered again this year on Festival weekends.  New to the lineup this year will be the Village People and Tommy Roe.  Here is the scheduled line-up of artists*:

    Mickey Dolenz and Mickey Mouse Epcot Flower and Garden
  • March 8 - 10    Mickey Dolenz
  • March 15 - 17  Chubby Checker & The Wildcats
  • March 22 - 24  The Guess Who
  • March 29 - 31  Nelson
  • April 5 - 7        The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie
  • April 12 - 14    Paul Revere & the Raiders
  • April 19 - 21    The Village People
  • April 26 - 28    The Orchestra, featuring former members of ELO and ELO II
  • May 3 - 5         Tommy Roe
  • May 10 - 12     Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone
  • May 17 - 19     Starship starring Mickey Thomas

(*artists subject to change)
Be sure to check out the Event this year, and take advantage of the great promotional discount offer for up to 30% off of your Resort Hotel stay.  Contact DreamFinder Travel for your booking today! 

DreamFinder Travel Epcot Flower & Garden

DreamFinder Travel Epcot Flower and Garden